Pouring from an Empty Cup

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I was on fire with the desire to serve others when I began my AmeriCorps term in the summer of 1999. During the daytime I worked for VOICES, a low-income advocacy group focused on Washington State's implementation of welfare reform policy. Then, a friend invited me to a meeting opposing a change to limit Spokane's expansive human rights ordinance, and I enthusiastically filled my evenings with organizing meetings and door-to-door canvassing.

I came home one evening several months later after another round of canvassing. I had stomped up endless concrete stairways of low-income apartment buildings in downtown Spokane knocking on doors, brandishing my clipboard for signatures, and having the same conversation with everyone who answered. Most of the people I talked to couldn't vote anyway; they had felony charges on their records.

That night a friend asked me about the new job-she wasn't a close friend and this was supposed to be the conversation where I happily answered that the job was going so well, that I was learning so much, that my life after college was turning out even better than I had hoped. Instead I felt a lump in my throat and put my hands over my face so she wouldn't see the tears in my eyes. There was an awkward silence. When I spoke my voice was small and muffled behind my hands.

"I'm so tired," I said. "I can't do this."

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Sarah Peterson (1999 Charter Class Krista Colleague) Sarah volunteered in Spokane with AmeriCorps prior to her move to Washington, D.C., where she worked at the William Penn House, a Quaker Seminar and Hospitality Center. Sarah recently graduated with a Masters of Divinity from Earlham School of Religion in Indiana and has returned to her hometown with her husband, Keith Sellers.


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